Robert Fabrizio was anxious to get the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday.
“I came an hour early,” he said.
Community Health Center, Inc opened up Middletown’s mass vaccination clinic at Wesleyan University on Thursday.
“I’m glad to get it, because we need all the protection we can get,” said Margaret Starrs, one of the first in line.
“I want to be protected. I want to be safe,” added Paul Rapuano, who drove from Branford for the appointment. “There was New Britain, which is further, and there was Hartford. This was closest to me.”
Vaccine Allocation Drives Appointment Availability
As more clinics open up, the amount of vaccine available still isn’t keeping up with demand.
“I would love to vaccinate 1,000 people a week,” said Lea Crown, Meriden’s health director.
Crown said the city only receives 200-300 doses of the vaccine each week.
So far, Meriden has vaccinated 32% of citizens 75 and older, and 7% of its population overall.
Right now, only frontline health care workers and those 75 and older are eligible.
Speaking at a vaccination clinic at a Meriden seniors center, the lieutenant governor acknowledged the demand far exceeds the supply.
“We could easily be administering 150,000 doses of the vaccine we just don’t have that supply yet,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. “The most frequently question asked is my age is fill in the blank, my job is fill in the blank, when can I get vaccinated."
Connecticut has doled out 460,000 doses since late December.
Community Health Center, Inc. which runs the Middletown clinic is tightly managing its supply of the vaccine to avoid having to cancel appointments.
“We know that is anxiety provoking for the individuals who are expecting to be vaccinated. We really want to get on the other side of this pandemic,” said Community Health Center, Inc. Regional Vice President Yvette Highsmith.
Ninety-six people were vaccinated during the soft opening on Thursday.
“This location has the capacity to do several hundred appointments but we don’t have the vaccine allocation that supports that,” said Community Health Center, Inc. Regional Vice President Yvette Highsmith.
She said starting Friday the clinic would be accepting 200 appointments, but had the capacity to do 600 if it had enough vaccine.
During his Thursday COVID-19 briefing, Governor Ned Lamont said the federal government will increase Connecticut's supply of vaccine by 17% next week.
Reaching the Most Vulnerable
To make it easier for those who don’t have access to the state’s online appointment system, Meriden’s senior center is booking appointments over the phone.
“We schedule their first and second dose at the same time. You can almost hear the sighs of relief over the phone,” said Crown.
Community Health Center, Inc, has partnered with the United Way, which has a hotline, 877-918-2224, people can call to book appointments.
Middletown has vaccinated 43% of its seniors 75 and older and 10% of its total population.
“Those numbers are a good start, but that’s not where we want to stay,” said Highsmith.
In addition to the drive-up clinic, Community Health Center, Inc. also administered the vaccine at their main location in a more traditional doctor’s office setting.
Health leaders in both communities said equity is also a big issue.
Although state officials say they are still gathering data on vaccination disparities, vulnerable populations are less likely to have an email address, and access to a computer or the internet, all barriers to signing up for the vaccine.
Highsmith pointed out that vaccine reluctancy is also more prevalent in Black and brown communities, which is why she’s working with local faith leaders and the NAACP to get more people of color to roll up their sleeves.
“We really hope that by standing up more of these locations that make them for accessible for people that we will be able to chip away at some of the disparities we’re seeing about who is actually being vaccinated,” said Highsmith.
Afterall, it’s this shot in the arm that may not only be giving people protection but peace of mind.
“I feel a sense of relief,” said Charles Starrs of Wallingford.
“Once everybody gets it then we can conquer this thing,” added Fabrizio. “I mean I can’t wait to hug my grandchildren.”